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Old 06 Dec 2017, 12:13 PM   #681827 / #1
lpetrich
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Default Stephen Jay Gould tributes

To The Unofficial Stephen Jay Gould Archive I must add another SJG tribute site: A Website About Stephen Jay Gould's Essays On Natural History

It contains short reviews of almost all his essays that he wrote for that publication. These essays were released in several books, but there are unfortunately no e-book versions of most of them. The same problem as with Isaac Asimov's science-essay books, sad to say. So it was nice to relive them in this vicarious way.

One of that SJG-NH site's documents is a grid that shows which subjects that he discussed in which essays in his books -- 52 subjects in 299 essays.


Here are his books with their abbreviations:

Ever Since Darwin (ESD), The Panda's Thumb (TPT), Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes (HTHT), The Flamingo's Smile (TFS), Bully for Brontosaurus (BFB), Eight Little Piggies (ELP), Dinosaur in a Haystack (DIH), Leonardo's Mountain of Clams (LMC), The Lying Stones of Marrakech (LSM), I Have Landed (IHL)


Here are those subjects, preceded by what fraction of essays they occurred in. "Favorite" is the personal favorites of the SJG-NH site's webmaster.

0.307692 Historical Figures in Evolution / Natural History, 0.247492 Darwin's Theory, 0.19398 The Methodology of Science, 0.187291 Autobiography, 0.173913 Favorite, 0.160535 Old Paradigms (other than creationism), 0.130435 The Contingency of History, 0.113712 Science and Art (including literature and movies), 0.110368 Creationism: Darwin's time and before, 0.107023 Scientific Racism (including eugenics), 0.107023 Objective Reality and the Human Mind, 0.107023 Evolution & Science in Society, 0.103679 Taxonomy, The Science of, 0.100334 Progress as an Inappropriate Metaphor, 0.09699 Adaptationism vs. Structuralism, 0.0936455 Genetics, 0.0936455 Evolution of Man, 0.090301 Legend vs Reality in Science, 0.0802676 Science and Religion (including NOMA), 0.0802676 Man and Nature, 0.0769231 Emergence vs Reductionism, 0.0769231 Darwin, the Man, 0.0735786 Non-Darwinian Theories of Evolution, 0.0702341 Punctuated Equilibrium, 0.0668896 Gradualism vs. Catastrophism, 0.0635452 Size and Scaling, 0.0635452 Embryology, 0.0635452 Creationism: Modern, 0.0602007 Teaching and Education, 0.0602007 Sex and Reproduction, 0.0602007 Non-Biological Evolution, 0.0602007 Geology, 0.0602007 Extinction in Natural History, 0.0568562 Origins and Development of Science, 0.0568562 Homology, Analogy, and Convergence, 0.0468227 The Cambrian Explosion, 0.0468227 Origin of Life / Precambrian Life, 0.0468227 Natural Selection at Different Levels, 0.0468227 Evidence of Evolution, 0.0468227 Deep Time / Age of Earth, 0.0434783 Trends in the History of Life, 0.0434783 Micro vs Macroevolution, 0.0434783 Bush vs. Ladder of Life, 0.0367893 Land Snails, 0.0334448 Extinctions in Historical Times, 0.0301003 Randomness, Probability, and Statistics, 0.0301003 Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, 0.0301003 Dinosaurs, 0.0301003 Authenticity, Continuity, and the Millennium, 0.0267559 Museums and Curators, 0.0234114 Baseball, 0.0167224 Sexual Selection
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Old 06 Dec 2017, 12:15 PM   #681828 / #2
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I decided to check on whether he liked to discuss any of those subjects together, so I did something called Principal Components Analysis. It essentially fits the data to a multidimensional ellipsoid, with each axis corresponding to a direction and amount of variation.

To check that analysis, I created a lot of random fake datasets with the same size and same subject frequencies, and I then averaged their PCA results. Only the two longest axes of the real data stood out relative to the axes of the fake data. So that means that SJG wrote largely at random, though with a few overall trends.

The longest PCA component divides up the more common subjects into two main groups, groups that may be called "Historical Stuff" and "How Evolution Works".

"Historical Stuff" includes "Historical Figures in Evolution / Natural History", ""Old Paradigms (other than creationism)", "Creationism: Darwin's time and before", "The Methodology of Science", "Origins and Development of Science", and the like.

"How Evolution Works" includes "Darwin's Theory", "Adaptationism vs. Structuralism", "Progress as an Inappropriate Metaphor", "Punctuated Equilibrium", "Natural Selection at Different Levels", "The Contingency of History", "Trends in the History of Life", and the like.

"Historical Stuff" and "How Evolution Works" are individually correlated. If SJG discussed some historical subject, he'd likely also discuss another one. Similarly for how evolution works.

But those two meta-subjects are anticorrelated. If SJG discussed some historical subject, he would not discuss some feature of how evolution works, and vice versa.

The webmaster's favorites seem to be "How Evolution Works" subjects.

For whatever reason, "Autobiography" was poorly correlated with either meta-subject.

The second longest PCA component broadly parallels the first one, but for the more common subjects, all its signs are the same. This likely reflects the fact that it's impossible to discuss some subject a negative number of times. So that component is not very informative.
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